“Fashion is merely a form of ugliness so absolutely unbearable that we have to alter it every six months!” This quip by Oscar Wilde comes from “The Philosophy of Dress,” an essay that first appeared in The New York Tribune in 1885 and is included in the collection Oscar Wilde on Dress, written and edited by John Cooper. Wilde was an ardent supporter of the Victorian dress reform movement. That group proclaimed itself to be “against the introduction of any fashion in dress that either deforms the figure, impedes the movements of the body, or in any way tends to injure the health.” Everyone should, adherents insisted, “be dressed healthily, comfortably, and beautifully ... as a duty to ourselves and each other.”
Between fittings on a busy afternoon, designer David C. Woolard discussed his costumes for the world premiere of Oscar by Theodore Morrison with John Cox as co-librettist. Wilde was “very much about being yourself,” Woolard said, “though it’s not necessarily the focus of the libretto.”
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